Inside the designing of the 2020 Ring

 

Katie Reid Ring

Junior cadet Katie Reid happily showcasing the varied weights and designs of potential class rings. Picture by Andrew Quintero

In 1923, the Norwich University Corps of Cadets began the tradition of the class ring. It originally started to represent the different class years but, according to members of the corps today, it has grown to mean something much more. “The ring has become a connection between every alumni past, present and future,” said Shane Ryan.

Ryan is a 20-year-old junior, and a computer security and information assurance major from Voorhees, N.J. He thinks of the ring as a connection between everyone who has ever walked the halls surrounding the upper parade grounds and the campus as a cadet.

“When you see a person with the ring, with the 1819 and then their class designed side, you instantly have a mutual respect for that person,” said Ryan. “It doesn’t matter where they came from, where they started or where they are now, I can understand what they went through to get that ring.”

The ring, or, to be more precise, rings, are physically a big deal. Most cadets order two different rings once they have earned the right to wear them.

First there is the more formal and showy garrison ring which is typically a gold ring with a stone, which is usually the larger of the two rings. The second ring is called a field ring which is typically made of a lustrium metal alloy, usually nickel and chromium, that provides a strong durable finish. It can come either with or without a stone.

Since each cadet who gets a ring customizes it to their own specifications, they are almost always pleased with their rings and it is often counted immediately as one of their most cherished possessions.

Hannah Malone, a 22-year-old senior, studying business management from Manchester, N.H., earned both rings last year. Her garrison ring is 10 karat gold, 44 penny weight ring with a granite stone topper, while her field ring is a lustrium 36 penny weight with a N.A.B. (Norwich Artillery Battery) stamper instead of a stone.

“I chose granite in my garrison ring because I’m from New Hampshire, which is our state rock. That and I wanted my ring to look a little different than other people,” said Malone.

Malone said her field ring is dedicated to the specialty unit she is a part of. The stamper is a solid piece of metal that has a design which is a used in place of a stone.

It can be confusing when to wear the different rings to some people, but cadets have evolved an unspoken general rule about when to wear each ring. According to Megan Hand, 20, a junior studying nursing from Victory, N.Y., the rules when to wear each ring are generally simple. “I’m going wear my garrison ring in super B’s (a dressy uniform) or if I’m going somewhere nice, and my field ring will be worn every other day,” said Hand.

The garrison ring is generally perceived as the flashier ring since it is made of gold. One of the properties that comes along with this is the hardness of the ring. The class ring can be ordered in three different karat levels, 10k, 14k and 18k. The lower the number, the less gold is contained in the ring, which makes for a ring more resistant to dings and scratches.

“My garrison ring is a 14k gold, 36 penny weight, with green quartz as my stone,” said Hand. Hand explained that she wanted 14k because it was a perfect medium between a hard ring and a piece of jewelry with a large amount of gold.

“My field ring is a 22-penny weight with granite as the stone topper,” said Hand. Hand chose granite as her stone topper because she liked the way it looked. She intends on wearing that ring the majority of her life and wanted something she felt would be appealing to see every day.

Juniior Unvealing of the Rings

Juniors in the Corps getting hyped at the unveiling of their ring. Picture by Norwich University

One of the perks about personalizing the ring is that it is made exactly how each cadet wants it. One cadet who went with a different class ring idea is Ra’Shun Gerald, a 20-year-old junior, studying communications from Capitol Heights, Md.

Gerald choose not to have a gold ring at all, deciding to get two field rings instead. “I just don’t like the way the gold ring looks,” said Gerald. He preferred the silver finish that is found in the field ring. “My garrison is a lustrium field ring, that is a 36-penny weight with a sardonyx stone.” “My field ring is the same as my garrison, but I choose to have an NU stamper instead of the stone,” said Gerald.

Getting a ring made to order means cadets can choose whatever they like or in some cases, something that means a lot to them individually. Ryan made his garrison ring a tribute to his grandfather. “My garrison ring is 10 karat, 36 penny weight, with a sunburst faceted alexandrite stone.”

“I got the alexandrite because it’s a purple stone for my grandfather,” said Ryan. “Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer which he passed away from last year. It’s a tribute to him because if it wasn’t for him, I would have never been able to succeed in life, let alone at this school.”

The ring boasts two very unique sides with a meaning that touches the cadets at a deep personal level. One side of the ring has been the same since 1923. “The 1819 side basically embodies everything of Norwich. Every class that has come before and after me will share this side,” said Ryan.

The other side of the ring is different every single year. It is carefully designed to have elements that are important to each year’s class. To make sure the design is a good representation of the class, there is an election to see which cadets will be responsible for the design of the ring. This prestigious group is known as the junior ring committee.

Hand, one of the cadets who was elected to be a part of the junior ring committee, noted the process to join this committee is quite extensive. It first begins in sophomore year where an application is sent out to the entire class in the cadet body. “After the application, there is a meet and greet with the applicants and the student body of the corps,” said Hand. “Following that, all the students in that year’s class vote online to see who will be appointed to the committee’s 10 seats.”

There is always some concern about who gets elected to the committee because the task is so large. It impacts every person in that year’s class and not everyone agrees on who gets picked to be on the committee. Although it may never be unanimous, most cadets believe and trust the system.

“I feel like the best candidates have been chosen for the committee,” said Jake Godbee, a 20-year-old junior studying criminal justice from Daytona Beach, Fla. “The people with the brightest minds and hardest working attitudes were chosen.”

Godbee thinks his ring committee for the 2020 year has made a beautiful ring, describing it as having a very smooth flowing design. “In years past, there’s a whole bunch of stuff cluttered into it and it doesn’t look as good. Ours has a select few simple things and it allows each element to stand out on its own.”

The class of 2020 ring is composed of many different elements, but certain ones have become crowd favorites.

“I really like the rose compass. To me it means like where ever you go, we’ll be able to make the best out of it,” said Katie Reid, 20, who is a junior studying computer security and information assurance from Gold Canyon, Ariz.

For Ryan, the eagle is the most important part of the ring design. “It’s the main focal point of the ring and I love it because it represents America,” said Ryan.

Gerald feels that the quote on his ring design is most important. The class of 2020 ring has a strip of cloth that reads, “To Preserve Freedom.”

“All of us come here for something. Some come to commission in the military, others for the discipline. But everyone’s main objective here should be to protect our way of life,” said Gerald.

Every cadet who has their ring has a personal connection to it. “To me, the ring is a symbol of perseverance,” said Gerald. “At a different school, you don’t really have to work for your class ring but here, it’s different.” Each year at Norwich has offered Gerald different challenges and for him to push past those challenges and the adversity is what the ring symbolizes.

“To me the ring is something that is earned. It’s motivating to get something that not everyone gets to wear. Not everyone makes it this far here,” agreed Hand, adding that she felt that the ring shows commitment to the school.

To Ryan, the ring is a sign of him overcoming struggles in his life and finally making it as a college graduate. “The ring is basically a statement to everyone that said I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do (the corps), that I did it,” said Ryan.

Ryan feels that earning a ring is of equal importance to earning his diploma. “Besides carrying around a diploma, that ring is what people can see, as I’m someone who’s made it at this school,” said Ryan.

Beyond the ring itself, the whole process and ceremonies are a tribute to the past as well as the future. One tribute to the past is conducted before the start of the junior ring ceremony, as each year cadets line up in their original platoons and march down to Plumley Armory.

“You walk down with your original platoon because you guys have been through everything together. Especially rookdom,” said Reid, looking back on the 18-week long process when freshman have to follow a strict set of rules and are carefully watched and disciplined by upperclassmen.

“We all started together as freshman, and got recognized together, so it makes sense we get our rings together,” said Ryan. “Recognition was the biggest thing to happen to us, now getting our rings together is the only thing that could possibly replace that.”

“My original platoon is spread throughout the corps, but we all come together as a symbol to say we all started at this point and it’s a chance to reflect on that,” said Gerald.

Once a class gets its rings, they join a legacy of the school. Even underclassmen recognize the massive importance of getting a ring. “If other alumni see me with that ring, they know that I’m from Norwich and I’ve made it through The Corps of Cadets,” said Steve Rabbia, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in history from New Hartford, N.Y.

He noted the ring carries more than just a graduating class design: It’s a symbol to everyone that the person wearing that ring is different. “People will know that I have the type of character that only comes from Norwich. It’s what people are looking for after putting in four years of work in the Corps of Cadets,” said Rabbia.

According to Malone, as a senior who has worn her ring for almost a full year, the ring is also a conversation starter. “People ask you ‘You go to a military school? Which one?’ and you just go off of that and it’s a sort of an ice-breaker,” said Malone.

The ring, in short, is a lot more than a heavy piece of jewelry: A symbol of heritage, perseverance and many other things that embody the Norwich Cadet culture. Hand believes the ring is proof, proof of what she has become: “My ring to me is a symbol of how much Norwich has changed me and I’m really happy of the person I’ve become since coming here.”

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